Veggie to Vegan

Happy February, friends!

Today’s post revolves around a decision that has been months in the making for me–I’m officially starting my transition from vegetarian to vegan.  This is my “official” start because we all know the Internet is forever–I figure if I declare it here, I’ll have to stick to it.

Just for a bit of background, I gave up meat on and off during high school (over 10 years ago #oldladystatus) but made my forever transition to vegetarianism in 2016.  In the beginning, it was tough–I literally dreamed about frying chicken–but now I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the lifestyle change.  The cravings for meat have subsided, and vegetarian cooking has become second-nature.  Honestly, some of the vegetarian dishes I make taste better than the meaty version!  (At least to me, anyway.)  Check out a few vegan meals I’ve made below, and if you want more #foodporn, follow me on Instagram:

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Delicious vegan food I’ve made!  (Clockwise from top left:  Banana “Ice Cream” with Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar, Tofu Fingers with Roasted Potatoes, Tofu Scramble with Roasted Potatoes, and Portobello “Steak” Strips with Green Beans and Rice Pilaf)

Why haven’t I become vegan yet, then?  Three big things:  Greek yogurt, eggs, and cheese.  Greek yogurt makes the list because it’s a good source of protein, which is something I need since I don’t get protein from meat.  It’s also super convenient for breakfast and/or a snack, which works well with my work/gym/life schedule.  Eggs make the list for the same reasons–protein and convenience.  (Also, plenty of the baked goods I love contain eggs, and I can’t quite give up my sweet treats just yet.)

And then there’s cheese.  Ahhhhh, cheese.  I live in Wisconsin, y’all.  The cheese up here is out of this WORLD, and it’s EVERYWHERE!  Real talk, I had no idea how many different types of cheese there are–and how tasty they could be–until I moved to America’s Dairyland.  I’m also a firm believer that it ain’t pizza unless it has cheese on it–and I love me some pizza.  So cheese has stuck around for a while even though I got rid of butter and cow’s milk a long time ago.

So–how is this transition going to work?  Starting today, I’m cutting cheese out of my diet.  (Guess I’ll be eating a lot of “ain’t pizza”.)  I know it’s going to be rough, but I really want to transition to a plant-based diet so I’m gonna do it!  Here are a few of the reasons I made this decision:

If you’re interested in cutting meat out of your life, check out this article by the Harvard Medical Center–it’s got some good information about the different types of vegetarianism and potential health benefits (and risks).  Also check out my Veggie Girl board on Pinterest for lots of vegetarian and vegan recipe ideas.

If you’re not interested in cutting meat out of your life, that’s cool with me.  #nojudgementhere #yourlifeisyours But I hope you’ll wish me luck on my journey from veggie to vegan!

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Pura Vida: Part 3

We’re drawing nearer to the end of this four-part series on the mother/daughter trip of a lifetime–a tour of Costa Rica!  If you’re just now checking out this series, make sure to go back and read Part 1 and Part 2–trust me, you wanna know about all the cool/funny/awesome moments Mom and I shared during the first two legs of our trip.  🙂  And now…

Day 6 (continued):  Arrival Day in Guanacaste!

Another day, another early morning pickup–our van arrived at 6:45am to take us to the final stop on our Costa Rican adventure.  The van ride was long and the roads were winding, but the views along the way were absolutely breathtaking.

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Adios, volcano!

And when we got to Guanacaste, the view was even better!

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Hola endless blue skies and beautiful blue ocean!

We arrived at our hotel before our room was ready so to pass the time, we browsed in a few shops and had lunch at a vegan restaurant.  It was delicious!

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Sweet and sour veggies with Asian slaw for me and “ice cream” cake for Mom!

With a few more minutes until check-in, we hung out at the bar until the front desk manager told us our room was ready.  The room was absolutely adorable–inside and out!

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Artwork outside the room…

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…and inside too!

 

Our room was also very close to the pool, so we slipped into our swimsuits, grabbed our books, and enjoyed some delicious cocktails poolside.  We we definitely feeling the #puravida vibes.

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Relaxing.  Refreshing.  Amazing!

The rain kept us inside again that night, but the skies were clear when we woke up.  We took advantage of that by hitting the streets of Guanacaste!

Day 7:  Guanacaste!

Breakfast at the hotel kicked off our beach day!  We spent some time checking out the different stores on the strip, then found a restaurant with a patio on the beach for even more relaxing in the sun.

You wouldn’t think that chilling on the beach would make two ladies work up such an appetite, but it surely did.  We asked the front desk manager at our hotel for some recommendations for lunch, and he hooked us ALL the way up.  He talked to a friend of his who owned a restaurant called The Roof.  We quickly learned how it earned its name–it was a ROOFTOP pizza place!  The restaurant wasn’t open yet, but the owner opened up early just for us.  Talk about #VIP treatment!

The view was amazing, and the pizza was absolutely divine.  Just see for yourself:

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The Roof

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The Roof

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Delicioso!

After that fantastic lunch, it was more of the same awesome stuff:  drinks and reading by the pool.  It may sound lame, but the hotel was such a wonderful place that we didn’t really want to leave it.  (If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend Hotel Pasatiempo!)

And the rain lulled us to sleep yet again…

Day 8:  Guanacaste!

You can probably guess what we filled our time with on our remaining day in Guanacaste…

  • Shopping – check
  • Eating – check
  • Enjoying delicious drinks on the beach – check
  • Generally being fabulous – double check!

We made a few new friends at the different beach side restaurants we dined at too:

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Friend 1:  Sleepy!

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Friend 2:  Hungry!

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Friend 3:  Squirrel-ly?

This was one of my favorite days of the trip because Mom and I got to really vacation.  We didn’t do anything we didn’t feel like doing.  We enjoyed decadent desserts and didn’t care about the calories.  And we talked–which meant the most to me.

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Enjoying a sweet treat with the sweetest woman I know–my mommy!

Day 9:  Journey to San Jose!

Saying goodbye to Guanacaste was terrible.  But we had to make our way back to San Jose to catch our flight back home.  It’s almost like the universe knew we didn’t want to leave:  this transport was the worst van ride of all (it almost made me carsick!) and we were stuck in traffic for a longggggg time.  (Long enough that our van driver flagged down a bread vendor and bought a loaf.  Guess he figured he might as well have a snack since we weren’t moving at all!)

After we finally made it to San Jose, we grabbed a quick snack while we waited for our room to be ready.  This was my final Spanish test, as the restaurant staff didn’t speak any English at ALL.  I guess I passed (because they gave us the cake and coffee we ordered) and after we settled up our bill we checked into our last hotel room of the trip.

We read more, uploaded tons of pictures of our trip to social media, and checked in with loved ones back home.  Dinner was room service in the hotel room and our lullaby was the heavy deluge that is a hallmark of the rainy season in Costa Rica.

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Nighttime in San Jose

Day 10:  Departure Day in San Jose!

Our dreaded final day in Costa Rica–after a whirlwind of fun and adventure, it was time to say goodbye.

I’m a momma’s girl through and through, so I hated saying goodbye to my #1.  But, at least it wouldn’t be goodbye for too long–I’d see her again at Thanksgiving in November.  I’ve said this a million times, but only because it’s true:  I’m so thankful to have a mother who loves me so much.  She sacrificed a lot so I could have a great life, and I could never ever EVER repay her.

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Mother and daughter after the trip of a lifetime!

Yes, our trip was over, but…this series isn’t!  Check back soon for the final part of my Pura Vida series–it’s the best part for sure.  🙂

Pura Vida: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my Costa Rican adventure with my wonderful mother!  If you haven’t checked out Pura Vida: Part 1, please do–you definitely want to check out our adventures in Tortuguero.  Two words:  zip lining!  🙂  And now…

Day 4 (continued):  Arrival Day in La Fortuna!

Our last morning in Tortuguero was beautiful–hot and sunny with bright blue skies.  It was tough to leave, but leave we did (after a final breakfast).  After the boat ride back to the mainland, we hopped on a bus and took a ride to a restaurant for lunch.

Lunch was buffet-style with the BEST FRESH SALSA I’VE EVER TASTED.  (Let me say this right now–one thing that did not disappoint during this trip was the food.  I’m a vegetarian, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find enough options while I was there.  Not only was there wonderful fresh fruit at ever meal, there was frequently salad with fresh veggies and lots of other tasty meat-free options!)

After lunch, a van picked us up to drive us to La Fortuna.  The trip was lengthy, but just like before, we were able to see a lot of the smaller towns on our journey.

As we got closer to La Fortuna, we could start to see the volcano.  Yes, an actual VOLCANO!  Was I a little scared that the volcano would spontaneously erupt and we’d die from the molten lava?  Absolutely.  Was I willing to sacrifice that to take in the beautiful view of the volcano from our hotel room.  ABSOLUTELY.  Just look at this beautiful view!

 

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Like the garden of Eden!

The hotel we stayed in had a few more amenities than our previous place in Tortuguero.  We had wi-fi in our room.  We had towels folded into cute animal shapes.  We had a TV with premium channels.  We had multiple poolside bars.  We had room service.  And we had…(wait for it)…air conditioning!  #thankyoulord

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Hello, butterfly.

After we got settled in, we walked around the rest of the site.  Our room was awesome, and the rest of the place was even better–check out some of the cool stuff on site:

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A playground..for animals!  Hotel staff put out leftover fruit each day to attract lots of colorful birds.

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Poolside view

 

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Just a hottie sitting next to a hot spring.  🙂  But seriously, the hot springs were over 100 degrees!

We eventually made our way to one of the poolside bars…

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Enjoy a drink poolside?  You don’t have to ask me twice!

Happy hour was going on, so we enjoyed a few drinks and watched the Costa Rican national soccer team on TV.  (They won!)

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Two pura vidas, please!

After the game and drinks and dinner at the bar, we went back to our room to get some much-needed rest.

Day 5:  La Fortuna!

This was the first day that we didn’t have any excursions or tours planned–we could do what we wanted, when we wanted.  Turns out, what we wanted was a relaxing day of shopping in town–and that’s exactly what we got.

We had another good breakfast at the hotel, then took a cab into town.  We purchased souvenirs for our loved ones back home including, but not limited to, Costa Rican coffee.  I bought eight bags of coffee to bring home–Mom ended up getting about 10!  We needed to share the blessing of authentic Costa Rican coffee with all of our friends and family back home.

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Downtown La Fortuna

 

We bought so many souvenirs we couldn’t even carry them all comfortably–we ended up buying tote bags to put the souvenirs in!  All that shopping worked up a definitely appetite, so we stopped for a bite to eat.

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Lunch date with my favorite lady!

After fries and milkshakes in a cute open air restaurant, we went back to the hotel for more relaxation.  Since we were in Costa Rica during the rainy season, we spent a lot of evenings chilling in our room because of the torrential downpour that started at about 6:30 each evening.  We got a lot of reading done and slept very comfortably after our full day in La Fortuna.

Day 6:  Journey to Guanacaste!

Luckily we got some good rest during the night, because we got picked up at 6:45am the next day to head to our final tour stop–Guanacaste.  Check back soon for Part 3 of our Costa Rican adventure!

 

Pura Vida: Part 1

Currently, the temperature is barely above freezing where I live.  Believe it or not, that’s WARM.  Last week it was literally -20 degrees.  #notcool  (I swear, if I didn’t love my job I’d absolutely move to a warmer climate.)

So, in an effort to get away from the cold (at least, mentally escape it) I’m hitting y’all with a recap of my trip to Costa Rica last year!  My job is awesome because on your five-year anniversary, you are awarded a sabbatical:  four weeks (paid) to take a trip to anywhere in the world you haven’t been before–with a companion!  I chose to use half of my sabbatical to take this vacation to Costa Rica with the woman I love above all others, my wonderful mother!  It really was the trip of a lifetime–Mom and I had a spectacular time experiencing the “pura vida” (pure life) spirit of Costa Rica and its people.  My mother is the most spectacular person I know–I owe EVERY OUNCE of success I’ve had in life to her–and I wanted to show her my appreciation with an international adventure.

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My mommy and me enjoying Costa Rica!

This post is the first in a series, so look for additional updates over the next couple of weeks.  But, for now, let’s start at the beginning…

Day 1:  Arrival day in San Jose!

Mom and I met up in Atlanta to take the flight to Costa Rica.  Airports are usually pretty boring, but for some reason we had a few funny interactions while we were there.

First, Mom got a complement from an airport worker on her smile.  After she said “thank you” (as a good Southern woman does) the airport worker asks loudly, “Who yo dentist is?!?”  This tickled her because she was not expecting to be asked for a dental referral (since usually dudes ask for a lady’s phone number instead).

Second, we discovered we were wearing the same pants–yoga pants with mesh cutouts.  #likemotherlikedaughter #goodstylerunsinthefamily

When we landed in San Jose, we did so under gray skies, but that didn’t make us any less excited to be there!  As we made our way to customs, I got to bust out my high school Spanish with “Donde esta el bano?” or “Where is the bathroom?”  Throughout the trip, many friendly Costa Ricans let me practice my terrible Spanish on them (and I really appreciated that they didn’t laugh at me).

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Bienvenidos a Costa Rica!

Our travel agent arranged a shuttle from the airport to our hotel, which was about 30 minutes away.  Our driver, a young guy with skinny sweatpants and braces, welcomed us and gave us our itinerary for the week.  We definitely over-tipped him because not only was he friendly, he safely got us to our hotel.

The hotel was fantastic!  The lobby and room were so nice, and the staff were very accommodating.  After getting checked in, we settled down in the room with some Chinese takeout.  We couldn’t get too comfortable though, as the next day we headed to the first town on our tour…

Day 2:  Journey to Tortuguero!

After a good night’s sleep, we woke up early to pack up and head to our next destination, Tortuguero. The hotel had a delicious continental breakfast, which included the best fresh pineapple I’ve ever put in my mouth and gallopinto, a tasty rice and bean dish.  I later learned that gallopinto is a traditional Costa Rican breakfast food–it was served at every single location we went to for breakfast!  (After the trip, I attempted to make gallopinto myself–my version was nowhere near as good as the real stuff.)  We also had a few cups of the BEST FREAKIN’ COFFEE I’VE EVER TASTED.  Seriously–I don’t even drink coffee and I was gulping that stuff down like water.

It was a good thing we caffeinated with all that delicious coffee too, because the bus ride to Tortuguero was longggggg.  We actually had to take a longer route because the main road was washed out (due to the rainy season).  But the lengthy trip wasn’t terrible, because we got to see lots of tiny towns in the countryside.

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First by land…

The lengthy trip wasn’t over with the bus ride either–after we got off the boat, we grabbed our luggage and traveled by boat to get to our hotel.

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…then by boat!

Once we got off the boat and got our luggage unpacked, we went on a hike (which was really more of a nature walk) .  The hike couldn’t have taken more than an hour, but during that time we saw:

  • Sloths
  • Howler monkeys
  • Spider monkeys
  • Land crabs
  • Bullet ants
  • Baby lizards
  • Tons of cool plants
  • Golden spiders

 

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Golden spider sparkle

When I tell y’all we were in the jungle, WE WERE IN THE JUNGLE.  Our hotel was actually built inside a national park!  There was no internet in the room, no TV in the room, and NO AIR CONDITIONING in the room, but it was so neat to be right there in the middle of the jungle.  Mom and I were sweating our faces off, but were so thrilled with all the animals we got to see.  After dinner and a shower, we headed to bed to prepare for our first full day in Tortuguero.

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Sweet dreams!

Day 3:  Tortuguero!

Weirdest wake up call ever–monkeys!  Yes, Mom and I were woken up by howler monkeys, well, howling.  It was strange but cool at the same time–who can say they used live howler monkeys as an alarm clock?  Apparently those monkeys wanted an early breakfast, because they woke us up veryyyyyyy early.  Not a problem though–we got up, had breakfast (and more delicious coffee) and took a boat tour through the canals of Tortuguero.

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Good morning!

The boat tour was just as cool as the hike we took the previous day.  On the boat tour, we saw:

  • More monkeys
  • More lizards (including a Jesus Christ lizard!)
  • Tons of cool birds
  • Turtles
  • A crocodile (which was so close it could have jumped into the damn boat)
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He looks hungry!

Our tour guide was so awesome, and the boat driver was too–they made sure to point out all the interesting animals and plants so we could take lots of pictures.

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Drying her wings in the sun

After our boat tour, the adventure continued with…zip lining!  Zip lining was hot (heat rises, and we were up in the treetops), scary (at least for me, because I’m afraid of heights), and FUN!  Mom was really good at it too!  She made it through the course like it was nothing!

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Safety first!

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We watched our instructors (literally) show us the ropes.

 

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Climbing up to the first platform–and praying I don’t fall off the ladder.

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Look at her go!

 

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Terrified?  YES.

After zip lining, we headed into the village to do some shopping.  We bought some ice cream and snacks, and I picked up a few postcards for folks back home.  We also saw vendors selling fresh coconut water, jewelry, and souvenirs.  Also, there were so many adorable dogs everywhere (off leash).

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Tortuguero Village

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Toucan statues in town!

The final activity of the day was an hour-long massage in the spa.  Now, earlier I mentioned our room did not have air conditioning.  And after all the adventuring we did, we were super hot.  The humidity was out of control too, which made the heat feel even hotter!  Mom and I thought, surely the spa will have air conditioning–we can get a massage *and* beat the heat for a little while!

Come to find out, the spa did NOT have air conditioning.  In fact, it was COMPLETELY OUTDOORS.  #weweresowrong The spa did have some high-powered ceiling fans, so we were still able to beat the heat and enjoy our massages even without air conditioning.  🙂

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Outdoor spa!

Relaxed after our massages, we enjoyed dinner with the other folks in our tour group.  We dined with two gentlemen from the Netherlands (in Costa Rica for the surfing!) and a couple from the Caribbean too.  A dog also joined us for dinner–I think he belonged to the front desk manager–and he patiently sat next to us (hoping for snacks I guess).

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Our friendly (and furry) dinner companion

After the meal, as we were walking back to our bungalow, we saw an armadillo!  It was hanging out near the bushes outside the bungalow, and ran away before we could snap a picture.  I’ve never seen an armadillo in real life–that sucker was big and fast!  Even with the excitement of running into an armadillo, we fell asleep quickly after our action-packed day.

Day 4:  Journey to La Fortuna!

Our time in Tortuguero drew to a close, so we packed our bags and began the next leg of our tour.  Next stop, La Fortuna!

Best of 2017

So.  2017 was an…interesting year.  So much craziness went on in the world (including, but not limited to, somebody’s President acting a fool constantly) but plenty of good things happened too!

Here’s is my list of personal highlights from 2017 (in no particular order):

  1. Getting back into acting…kinda:  I completed recording for my first lead role in an audio drama!  I’m used to acting for stage and screen, so doing just vocal work was new to me, but it was a fantastic experience.  And y’all–this story is SO GOOD.  I can’t wait for you to hear it.  Please check out Who Killed Julie?, debuting later this year!
  2. #relationshipgoals:  My boyfriend and I celebrated one year together!  Wonderful can’t even describe this man.  He has been so supportive and understanding (given my rocky last relationship) and I can’t imagine my life with out him.
  3. International travels:  It was a bit late in the year, but I went to Ontario, Canada for a work trip in December.  I had never been to Canada before and was excited to get another stamp on my passport.  I’d love to go back for fun instead of work (preferably in the summer months).
  4. Mommy/daughter Costa Rican extravaganza:  I guess technically this falls under international travels too, but it was so awesome I had to give it a special shout out.  My mother and I took a trip to Costa Rica in October that was so wonderful.  Look for more details on our adventures in a FOUR PART series next month!
  5. Three decades of life:  This year, I turned 30!  Honestly, I feel like I acted like a 30-year-old long before my actual birthday, so it is nice to have my age match my maturity level.  🙂  I’ve come a long way from that girl who first boarded a plane at the age of 16, who thought she’d live and die in the great commonwealth of Kentucky.  I’ve learned a lot along the way and I can’t see what the good Lord has in store for me for the next 30 years.
  6. My squirrel friend’s wedding, my other squirrel friend’s baby, and just general squirrel friend shenanigans:  This year I was blessed to see my good friends make awesome moves in life.  One had a daughter, who is now a DRDIT (Drag Race Diva In Training).  One got married in a beautiful ceremony in upstate New York (which I was fortunate enough to be able to attend).  One finally freed herself from an abusive relationship.  And so many called, texted, Skyped, or just hung out with me.
  7. Girls Trip:  If you haven’t seen it, you must.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever laughed that hard in a movie theater.
  8. StellaMy brand new car!  You know, after seven years, I finally feel safe driving in these Wisconsin winters.  It’s amazing.
  9. Workin’ on my fitness:  2017 marked one full year since I started working with my personal trainer.  I’ve lost 20 lbs so far (and improved my eating too)!
  10. Fully realizing the awesomeness of Amazon Prime:  “Why yes, I did order a dish drainer online.  Couldn’t I have just gone to the store and bought one?  Absolutely!  But…why?”

Tell me–what’s on your “Best of 2017” list?  What are you hoping to accomplish in 2018?